INTERVIEW WITH PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER FRANK CARRA
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, now based in New York City, Frank is a professional photographer and stylist doing what he loves.
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, but I’ve lived in New York City for eighteen years now. I couldn’t think of living anywhere else at this moment. The energy, the people, and the city are so inspiring to me. Walking in Soho, Chelsea, or Upper East Side is like a whole different world. I’m also a magazine junky. I’ve been collecting magazines for years, I have some that are over fifteen years old, and I love looking back at them. Every time I get a chance to go to a magazine store I’ll spend some time there. I used to sit at Barnes and Nobles in Union Square for hours! There are so many creatives here; I think for fashion, it’s definitely a great place to be. It’s incredible to live in a city that is so diverse, a city that can be so different from one neighborhood to another.
The supermodel era of the ’90s influences my style of photography. I like to create dramatic images, minimalistic, sexy, a little dark, and timeless. Hero style might be one of my favorites; I love an epic moment.
I have always wanted a career in fashion. I was influenced by growing up with my mother as a hairstylist. I spent a lot of time in the hair salon and remember looking through their magazines all day. Before photography, I worked as Visual Merchandiser here in New York. Part of the responsibilities were to submit pictures of the looks on the mannequins to headquarters. I started by styling clients at some of the stores where I worked. Later, I got to work BTS during New York Fashion Week as a dresser and felt right at home. I’ve mostly done personal shopping etc. After working as a Visual Merchandiser for so long, styling become a huge strength. Learning to forecast the trends that I would be representing in a store to tell the story, helped me creating the story for photography. It’s almost like the clothes lead the way to the creative aspect. That is when I felt sure it was something I wanted to pursue.
I started by assisting a great creative friend, photographer, and creative director, Juan Sebastian. He trained me for a few months and gave me the fundamentals of photography. He told me just to continue to practice, and I’ve not stopped shooting since then. I definitely know I’m in the right industry because I get a very rewarding feeling of satisfaction after creating a moment, collaborating with the model, and other artists when creating beautiful stories or images.
I went to school for marketing. Due to my previous jobs, I’ve always been in ongoing training for styling. I have traveled internationally for training purposes. For photography, I trained with a great photographer/ friend. I also took online classes, Industry Essentials by Parsons. Like most careers, you don’t stop learning. Today you can find amazing online tutorials, I’ve learned so much from YouTube. If you don’t know how to do something, research, ask friends, just figure it out.
My first paid gigs were for influencers on social media sites. I was creating editorials that represented their brands while still keeping my aesthetic. I got to do collaborations for watches, hotels, and clothing brands. The most recent were headshots for a real estate term. Here I had to conform more to what the client needed, even if it wasn’t really my style. The most significant improvement, I think, is adding versatility to my book.
The level of difficulty when creating an image depends on the client. [Laughs] I think to create an image for someone else can be easy if they know what they want. Sometimes that person might not know what they want, and to satisfy them could be a challenge. Sometimes even when I create my projects, I don’t know what I want. The shoot might take a different direction depending on the weather, model’s energy, or just me feeling different that day.
As both photographer and stylist, I try to prepare for the shoot the same way. Still create my mood board, and if I’m styling it, I’ll just take the time in advance to pull looks and have them ready. Doing both does give me the freedom to change things as I go if I feel I need to. It is more exciting to pull the looks; it does inspire me tremendously for the shoot. Sometimes I pick a piece and already have an image in my head on how to shoot it.
I feel inspired continuously, and it’s weird the things that sometimes inspire me. I’m that friend that is scanning your look as I’m saying “hello.” Something like just walking into someone’s apartment brings me ideas. Many times I meet someone for the first time, and I can already “picture” them in a different look or setting.
Seeing my work displayed in public doesn’t really influence the way I plan my next assignment. I try to challenge myself to do new things while maintaining my aesthetic.
I like to hear what people have to say; in fact many times I ask my friends what they think about whatever work I did. If it’s something I had thought about, I would consider it. Not everyone gets it, and that’s ok, too. We can’t please everyone, and not everyone will like your work. I have felt criticized, but I always look at who it’s coming from. Then, I really don’t care. Today thanks to social media, everyone has an opinion. Unfortunately, the people that have something negative to say are the loudest. If they get too loud, just block them. I focus on those that actually liked it, or have constructive criticism. I feel fortunate that most of the people that I know do support my work.
My favorite photoshoot that I’ve done so far is the one HUF Magazine published. It was my first official shoot with a full team and female models. “Garden of Love” is still an exceptional shoot. The tropical vibe of the location reminded me so much of where I come from ( P.R.). And how often do you get that in the middle of Manhattan? We got to create something very colorful, it was sexy, and yet fashionforward.
I think the definition of success is when you get to do what you love and actually get paid for it. I used to think it was money, but that has definitely changed. Now I want both. To achieve success, you need to make sure it’s something you want to do first, something you will enjoy doing and want to breathe day and night. When I got into photography, I knew I wanted to be a photographer. The lifestyle I wanted to have, and I’m very excited to get there.
I think everyone should be inspired to leave a legacy, especially creatives. I want to be known; for people to recognize my work. I want to continue growing with other artists, to one day realize we’ve grown and become the top in the industry. I think to obtain that, I must continue collaborating with other artists, continue to improve, and at the same time, stay relevant to what the industry is doing, trends, etc.